By Josh Visser
The final days of the RSU election weren’t very appealing for Sarah Turnbull.
Turnbull, who ran for presidency, was told the day after the polls closed that the Elections Appeal Committee would be reducing her demerit point total to 20 from the 30 that Chief Returning Officer Kelly Holloway had imposed on her only three days earlier.
Turnbull received a total of 35 demerit points, the amount allowed before disqualification, during the campaign. By the time those points were removed, she had lost the presidency to her opponent, Mohammed Ali Jabbar, early Thursday morning. Turnbull said it was unfair she could not appeal the demerit points she’d received until after the election.
“The CRO could basically hand out demerit points left, right and centre,” Turnbull said. “You can’t argue anything until after the election, when the damage is already done.” Holloway said Turnbull was sent an e-mail describing the charges against her. Turnbull didn’t respond before Holloway made her ruling on Feb. 13.
“I asked her to provide evidence for her statements and I spent the next four days researching (the statements’) validity,” said Holloway.
Turnbull argued against two charges; 20 demerit points for gross misrepresentation of facts and 10 demerit points for a poster violation. The committee decided to drop the 20 point gross misrepresentation of facts charge and impose two counts of intentional misrepresentation of facts, each worth 10 demerit points.
The penalty was based on two points of contention made by Jabbar after Turnbull sent out a letter to student groups on campus. The first was that Turnbull claimed to be instrumental in creating the multi-faith room in Oakham House. The second was that Turnbull “fought for — and won — a student majority on the SCC.”
Holloway said that the evidence Turnbull brought forward — minutes of meetings she attended — proved Turnbull was in attendance for meetings regarding the creation of the multi-faith room, but not that she was “instrumental,” Turnbull said she sat on the transition committee for the student campus centre that helped Muslim students find a solution. “The basic argument was that I wasn’t physically standing next to the Muslim students working with them.”
As for the student majority in the SCC, Holloway said the committee decided the issue was too “contentious” for a 20-point charge. “There are different opinions on what the SCC status is — but the notion that Turnbull won a student majority was an intentional misrepresentation of facts,” Holloway said. “We have the draft agreements all the way back to 2001 which clearly state there is a student majority.” The committee also revoked the poster violation.
The original ruling was that members of Turnbull’s team had torn down her opponents’ posters and replaced them with their own.
“There wasn’t enough evidence to show that it wasn’t this third party tearing down posters,” Alex Kerner, RSU internal coordinator and member of the appeals committee, said.